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Wednesday, 16 February 1977

Mr BOURCHIER (Bendigo) -I wish to reply to one or two comments made by previous speakers on the Opposition side. I think, in fairness, I must acknowledge the concern of and have some sympathy for the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) because, as he has correctly stated, we have a similar problem. He said that the textile industry in his electorate apparently suffered a greater problem before 1972 than after 1972. I have some figures that show the effects of the 25 per cent general tariff cut which took effect on 19 July 1973. In August 1 973 the number of people unemployed was 1.4 per cent of the work force. As a result of that 25 per cent tariff cut the number rose to 4.5 per cent in February 1975. The actual number of people unemployed rose from 81 000 to 292 000. 1 dare say that the honourable member for Corio was fortunate if the textile industry in his electorate was not part of that debacle. I assure him that my electorate and many other electorates were.

While the Opposition acknowledges that there is an unemployment problem, it tends to overlook that the problem was created basically in the 3 years of Labor administration. What the figures tell is really not that far from the truth. The number of unemployed rose almost to the level at which it is now. It was only about a 0.2 per cent difference. As a result of that 25 per cent tariff cut many industries were forced to close. It is a strange thing but the Australian Labor Party has the very funny idea that an industry which is forced to close by action of a government can suddenly, for no reason at all, without further capital investment, after all that has been lost previously, reopen. It does not work that way. When the Labor Party in office forced many industries to close it created the real problem facing the manufacturing industry in this country. Industries which closed or which were forced to retrench and which lost immense profits because of the actions of the Labor Government cannot recover quickly. Many of the shareholder investors would not want to take the risk of such government attack again. As one of my colleagues said, our attempts to convert the awful situation that we inherited in 197S are somewhat akin to trying to stop the tide. The tide goes out, pauses, comes back. That is exactly what is happening. I believe that we have stopped the tide. We have achieved that. We have not increased the rate of inflation. We have slightly reduced it. We have taken steps to help industry. They will show up this coming year.

I dispute the comments of the honourable member for Corio that there are no signs of recovery. I have spoken to representatives of many industries. They are quite happy with the way things are shaping. In a debate yesterday the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) commented that there was no improvement in industry. There is. Industry is starting to show the effects of the action which we have taken. It appreciates that when we came into office it at last saw the chance of being able to solve the awful problem which it was facing of going out of business. It is not easy to solve the problems that resulted from the tariff cuts and from the import quotas in the textile and footwear industries. It is not an easy thing to say that an industry should suddenly re-employ 200 000 people who have been thrust out of work. It is a matter of getting confidence back into the industry. That is what this Government is proposing to do. It is a matter of record that the number of unemployed in the manufacturing workforce at August 1973 was 1.2 per cent. The number rose to 4.8 per cent by November 1975.

The honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) referred to the era of the former Labor Party Leader, Ben Chifley, who apparently set out the program and policy of the Labor Party to provide, above all things, the opportunity to create continued employment. I wonder whether the honourable member for Port Adelaide thought about that policy of Mr Chifley when, during the 3 years of Labor Government, the number of people unemployed rose from approximately 2 per cent to about 5lh per cent, thereby creating an extra 200 000 people unemployed. Surely the Chifley principles went out the window when the desires of the previous Government to socialise this country were implemented.

This Government has a real concern for industry. We have taken positive steps to create certain assistance for the whole of the Australian manufacturing and commercial area. We have introduced a stock valuation adjustment scheme which will offset the current attack of inflation on stock prices which, in turn, will mean that business houses, manufacturers or commercial retailers will have the opportunity to bring their stock into valuation at the appropriate time and at a real and correct figure. This, in turn, will mean added profits to companies. This, in turn, will mean that companies will have the opportunity to invest, the incentive to increase production and to provide opportunities for jobs. It is all part of the plan, and it will all work.

We introduced tax indexation. It will really start to bite with the increases in wages during this year. As the wage level rises to a certain taxation level the work force, the people receiving wages, will find that they have more money in their pockets. This will give them the opportunity to spend that money. The spending of that money in the private sector will mean that there will again be a demand for goods which, in turn, will mean increased productivity. At least we hope it will mean increased productivity. Unlike the previous Government, which tried to divert everything to the public sector, we are trying to boost the private sector. Demand for goods means increased jobs. Let me quote what the President of the Labor Party, Bob Hawke, said on his return from Japan. He said that the Japanese employee is in a much better position in relation to benefits and conditions than his Australian counterpart. Bob Hawke conveniently forgot to mention one simple little thing. The Japanese rate of productivity is much higher than ours. That is one reason that Japanese employees are able to get those better conditions. It is a simple matter of logic that if productivity is increased the benefits flow not only to the manufacturer and the shareholder, but also to the employee. Not only do the benefits flow to the employee, but also there are a greater incentive and a greater demand which result in a need for more employees.

The member for Port Adelaide commented about the lack of jobs. He named a company in Sydney, I think it was, that was planning to sack a number of people. Let him check out the various metropolitan newspapers any weekend he likes, and he will see the number of jobs advertised for skilled tradesmen. I understand that at present an inquiry is being carried out by the Premier of Victoria into a claim that a firm in Melbourne was looking for 300 employees but could not get one. Why is that happening? I believe that one of the major problems is a lack of skilled tradesmen. We are certainly getting a surplus of academics and unskilled workers. That is regrettable. Our Government has taken steps to help untrained youths to gain training through the apprenticeship scheme which we have introduced. We have provided a rebate to allow apprentices to attend full time training. Under the National Employment and Training scheme we have provided the opportunity for young people to be employed while learning an occupation, rather than paying them to attend a school, as they were under the previous Government. We have introduced a youth employment training scheme which provides a subsidy to employers to encourage them to employ the youth of the country. These are only 3 steps designed to assist the young people and I am sure many more will follow.

This Government has taken positive steps to assist the young and to assist not only manufacturing industries but also all industry in this country because we believe that if we can make industry profitable and effective we will overcome the unemployment situation.

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